A massive explosion at a grease manufacturing plant in Rockton (near Rockford) created giant plumes of smoke and led to the evacuation of about 1,000 residents within a two-mile radius of the plant. Remarkably, more than 50 employees inside the Chemtool plant at the time of the explosion got out safely.
Fire officials were limited in their ability to use water to extinguish the fire due to environmental concerns over potential chemical runoff into the nearby Rock River. Instead, firefighters remained on alert as fluids that caught fire burn out on their own. An estimated 1,000 residents near the plant were evacuated. A disaster proclamation, which will allow for additional state help and potentially federal assistance, is in effect at least until June 21 across Winnebago County.